A Grip of Time

 

{Thank you, Red Lighting Books via Edelweiss, for the free digital copy to review. All opinions are my own.}

Curious about the lives of inmates and the current prison system of America, Lauren Kessler starts a writing group within the walls of Oregon State Prison (OSP). It takes several years before she gains full clearance inside the prison, but through sheer determination and the help of the employed activities director, Kessler finally gains access to a group of murderers, rapists, and robbers in order to learn more about an inmate’s day-to-day life.

Each chapter presents a new topic or theme that Kessler has the inmates write about. From “A Week in the Life Of…” to “Dreams”, Kessler slowly gains their trust and eventually gets some very well-done pieces of writing. You slowly see how the inmates learn that there is power in their words – their story. Through the “homework” they have each week, they come to some big realizations and truly reflect on their pasts, as well as their futures.

What I loved the most from this book was how Kessler humanized the inmates and gave them a voice. I think it’s easy for society to just write off criminals and bad people, but Kessler reminds us that they are not what they did. Instead, they are people who hurt and worry and try to rehabilitate themselves in the hope that they may someday be released back into society.

Also interspersed throughout the book are facts and statistics about the prison system in general. I found these additions to be complimentary to the overall story and also very educational. I’m no guru on the prison system, but Kessler gave me a lot to think about.

This book was such a pleasant surprise for me. Kessler writes investigative journalism while making it interesting and informative – something I think would be hard to do. Especially about inmates and the prison system! But I really enjoyed this book and learned lots of new stuff in the process!

On Shelves: May 1, 2019

 

13 Spring Books I’m Excited About

Spring is finally here! I’m not sure exactly what I’m complaining about because, with the exception of last week’s #bombcyclone, we’ve had the most mild winter ever! Course, March and April are known to give us some pretty crazy weather so I’m getting my wishlist ready in case we get snowed in sometime soon!

Also, my family is heading on vacation soon, so I’m compiling a list of books that would be perfect to read on a beach somewhere…stay tuned for that!

Without further ado, here are some books releasing this spring that I can’t wait to read! What’s on your Spring #TBR?

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.03.20 AMI Miss You When I Blink: Essays by: Mary Laura Philpott (Atria)

One of my most trusted sources, Sarah’s Book Shelves, recently enjoyed this one! We have similar taste, so I’m hoping I enjoy this one, too!

On Shelves: April 2
Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.11.00 AMWhen We Left Cuba by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley)

Next Year in Havana was one of my favorite books last year, and When We Left Cuba is the next book from the Perez family, this time from Beatriz’ point of view. I can’t wait to go back to Cuba through Cleeton’s writing!

On Shelves: April 9

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.21.08 AMLost Roses by: Martha Hall Kelly (Ballantine)

I adored The Lilac Girls, so I’m excited to what Martha Hall Kelly delivers this time around. If this is as good as the last one, she’ll definitely become an auto-buy author for me! 

On Shelves: April 9

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.22.54 AMHow to Make Friends with the Dark by: Kathleen Glasgow (Delacorte Press)

This book is YA fiction and deals with grief after the death of a mother – something I definitely relate to. This one is definitely a must-read for me!

On Shelves: April 9

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.29.47 AMThe Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by: Melinda Gates (Flatiron)

From the publisher’s synopsis: “If you want to lift a society up, invest in women.” ‘Nuff said.

On Shelves: April 23

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.34.36 AMWhat My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence by: Michele Filgate (Simon Schuster)

I read Filgate’s essay about growing up with an abusive stepfather and how that affected her relationship with her mother and I was in tears. 

On Shelves: April 30

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.38.36 AMThe Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by: Helen Hoang (Berkley)

Not my usual genre, but I loved The Kiss Quotient last year! I’m excited to read this next one!

On Shelves: May 7

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.40.19 AMThe Farm by: Joanne Ramos (Random House)

I keep going back and forth on this one, but ultimately I think I’d like to give it a try. The Handmaid’s Tale comparison is what’s really drawing me in.

On Shelves: May 7

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.45.47 AMJuliet the Maniac: A Novel by: Juliet Escoria (Melville House)

Tyler Goodson said it was good and that’s enough for me. No, but seriously, the synopsis reminds me of Girl in Pieces, which I mentioned above, I loved.

On Shelves: May 7

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.50.17 AMThe Night Before by: Wendy Walker (St. Martin’s Press)

Another repeat author and this one sounds intense! I don’t generally read thrillers, but I want to love them so I’m going with an author that’s already proved herself to me.

On Shelves: May 14

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.53.12 AMCity of Girls by: Elizabeth Gilbert (Riverhead)

I heard about this one on a podcast and have been eagerly anticipating it ever since! I think this is my most anticipated book of spring!

On Shelves: June 4

 

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 11.57.43 AMPlaces and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning by: Elliot Ackerman (Penguin Press)

This one is a historical nonfiction about war, and Ackerman writes about combat and its repercussions like no one else. This ones sounds interesting! 

On Shelves: June 11

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 12.02.34 PMRecursion by: Blake Crouch (Crown)

Dark Matter caught me by surprise and I’m mostly curious if Crouch can immerse me in a sci-fi book again (something waaaay outside my comfort zone).

On Shelves: June 11

 

 

Queenie

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It’s taken me a few days to process my feelings about this book. At first, I wasn’t sure I cared for it. I thought about DNFing, but for some reason I didn’t, and I’m glad! The story definitely came around for me by the end.

I think what I didn’t like at first was the character of Queenie. She was so frustrating and seemingly intent on destroying her own life. Bad choice after bad choice, I was just so annoyed with her. But as I continued reading, a light began to shine on her and her struggles. As she came to this realization herself, Queenie took steps towards her own transformation. By the end of the book, Queenie came to hold a special place in my heart.

I recognized parts of myself in Queenie. Raised in a violent home, the things Queenie witnessed and experienced had a pervasive affect on her self-esteem and adult life. Struggling to process those feelings amongst that poor self-esteem and her failed relationships, Queenie made many self-destructive choices. It wasn’t until she hit rock bottom that she finally realized she needed help to get healthy. One of my favorite parts of the book was the way her friends (except one) continually rallied to support her and love her and remind her of who she really was. They were her champions – through thick and thin – and that total acceptance brought tears to my eyes.

Marketed as a companion book for those who loved Bridget Jones’ Diary, I expected this to be a light-hearted disastrous story. If you make the same assumption, I think you’ll be misdirected and disappointed. This book has grit and it’s hard to read at times (trigger warnings below, if you’re interested). Queenie is quick-witted  and I even chuckled at a few of her comebacks, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a transformative read of a young woman who battles her childhood demons to finally embrace the live she has. She struggles to find her own self-worth and to be her own hero in her life.

Queenie will stick with me for awhile. I finished it several days ago and keep catching myself thinking about her. Maybe it’s the personal connection I felt to her childhood, but I think she’ll become one of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read.

This book is out today (March 19, 2019)!

For some #ownvoices reviews, please check out the following instagram posts: @bookish.canuck, and @absorbedinpages.

🚨 Trigger warning: sexual violence, mental health, miscarriage, childhood trauma, graphic sex, and race.

If you’ve read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please drop a comment below.

 

Book of the Month is probably my favorite subscription service. For $14.99/mon I can get (up to 3) hardback new release books. Some of them even arrive on my doorstep BEFORE their publication date! The picks are generally diverse and if the selections just aren’t connecting with me, I can skip the month and my credit will roll over. If you’re interested in joining, follow this affiliate link and get signed up today! (Disclaimer: I will receive a free book credit if you sign up using that link. Thank you! 🥰)

My Week in Books (3/18/19)

 

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(#partner #freebooks. Thank you, Ballantine Books, Algonquin, Graydon House, Red Lightning Books, Libro.fm, Pantheon, HarperOne, and Harper Perennial for the free books to review. All opinions are my own.)

The #bombcyclone hit and it hit us hard. We were without power for close to 18 hours which gave us a lot of reading time! Between naps, forging for food that didn’t need preparation, and watching the snow blow sideways, I think my whole family is feeling a little bit stir-crazy at this point!

Last Week’s Reads:

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  • Daisy Jones and The Six by: Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books) – Pub Date: March 5, 2019
  • A People’s History of Heaven by: Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019 (TOMORROW!)
    • This is an amazing book about friendship, love, and standing your ground set in a slum in Bangladore, India. There are several characters in the story but it mainly focuses on five young girls who are coming-of-age in a society that values boys more than girls and doesn’t really support girls getting an education. But with the older women of the slum pushing these girls to continue their schooling and with the help of the principal of their school, these girls believe in themselves and their contribution to society! (Read my full review here.)
  • The Things We Cannot Say by: Kelly Rimmer (Graydon House) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019 (TOMORROW!)
  • Queenie by: Candice Carty-Williams (Scout Press) – Pub Date: March 19, 2019 (TOMORROW!)
    • I wavered on this one for a good portion of the book and almost DNF’d it. For some reason, I didn’t and I’m glad! I’ll have a full review later this week…so check back! 😉

Currently Reading/Listening:

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  • Five Feet Apart by: Rachel Lippincott (Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers) – Pub Date: November 20, 2018)
    • After Katherine at @readwithkat hosted an online book club for this one, I knew I had to read it. I find it so important to read books about things I have no idea about. This one is about two young adults living with cystic fibrosis (CF). This one may take me awhile because I’m actually doing a read along with my 11-year-old daughter!
  • A Grip of Time by: Lauren Kessler (Red Lightning Books) Pub Date: May 1, 2019
    • Still loving this book about a group of inmates who join a writing group in prison. Not only are their personal narratives given in bits and pieces, but Kessler also gives a lot of background information on the United States’ prison system and how reformation is necessary.
  • 🎧 Cherry by: Nico Walker (Knopf) – Pub Date: August 14, 2018
    • Audiobooks can be hard for me to get into, but as an effort to get more things done around the house, I’m focusing on listening to them more! As a member of the Libro.fm listening squad (#librofmlisteningsquad), I have a promo code for you to use to get more audiobooks in your life as well! Follow this link to the Libro.fm website to get 3 audiobooks for the price of 1 ($14.99)! I’d love to hear what audiobooks you’ve listened to and loved recently!
  • Next Year in Havana by: Chanel Cleeton (Berkley) – Pub Date: February 6, 2018

Likely to Read Next:

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  • The Other Americans by: Laila Lalami (Pantheon) – Pub Date: March 26, 2019
    • This is a family drama, a murder mystery, and a love story all in one! With a cast of characters divided by race, religion, and class, I think this one sounds promising as a real thought-provoker.
  • #IMomSoHard by: Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley (HarperOne) – Pub Date: April 2, 2019
    • I have a feeling this one is going to be hugely funny…or a huge flop. Humor can be hard, but I’m hoping it’s just the light read I’m currently craving!
  • In Another Time by: Jill Cantor (Harper Perennial) – Pub Date: March 5, 2018
    • Yes, yet another WWII historical fiction book on my TBR. As soon as I get through my #partner #freebooks from this era, I will be taking a break! I love it, but I need something else…maybe a good psychological thriller?!?!

 

Phew! That was a lot…thank you #bombcyclone for all the downtime!

Tell me, friends, what’s been your favorite reads lately?

The Things We Cannot Say

 

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{#partner #freebook #graydonhousebooks}

“Home is not the country we stand in-it’s us. Home is the future we have been planning and dreaming of. We can build it anywhere.”

Following two separate timelines – one in the midst of WWII-occupied Poland in 1942 and the other in present-day Florida – Kelly Rimmer beautifully brings a new perspective to WWII historical fiction. With a twist I wasn’t expecting, Rimmer emphasizes the sacrifices made in the name of love and reminds her readers that tough choices have to be made in times of survival and war.

While I LOVED the past tense storyline, the present-day plot was just meh to me. I understand the connection, but I wasn’t invested in it’s characters at all. I found myself skimming these parts so as not to miss something important, but anticipated the chapters when I could return to Alina.

The story truly came alive when it would flashback to Poland and we learned of the great sacrifices made by Alina and those around her.

I think Rimmer says it best in the afterword:

“History’s most important lessons can be difficult to confront and even harder to share-but we are all richer when those lessons persist through generations. Perhaps more than ever, we need the wisdom our forebears gleaned through blood, sweat and more than their share of tears.”

This book is out this Tuesday, March 19, 2019!

A People’s History of Heaven

Thank you, Algonquin via NetGalley for the digital copy to review. All opinions are my own.

From the publisher’s synopsis: A politically driven graffiti artist. A transgender Christian convert. A blind girl who loves to dance. A queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. These are some of the young women who live in a Bangalore slum known as Heaven, young women whom readers will come to love in the moving, atmospheric, and deeply inspiring debut, A People’s History of Heaven.

“Back then, Heaven was just a bunch of blue tarps strung up into haphazard tents in a clearing on the edge of the coconut grove. A for-now kind of place, not a forever kind of place. A square of dirt to tide a family over until something better came along.”

Heaven is a slum in Bangladore, India. As one of India’s fastest growing cities, modern high-rises and technology are moving in, slowly encroaching on the little space the slum’s occupants still have. A community of women, from the elderly grandmas to a group of school-aged girls, this is a story of womanhood, supporting your friends, and fighting for your home.

“It’s funny, being a girl. That things that’s supposed to push you down, defeat you, shove you back, back, and farther back still? Turn it the right way, and it’ll push you forward instead.”

The thing I loved most about this book was the relationships all of the women, young and old, had with each other. Regardless of blood relations, the women looked after the children, using their individual strengths to encourage success in each of the young children running around the slum. They knew they were poor, but they didn’t dwell on it. They didn’t pity themselves. Instead, they rose above their circumstances and shined. With the help of the principal at the local school, these girls knew they were destined for more than the life they currently led. The principal saw the brilliance of their minds and prepped them for college as a way to help them better their futures. In a place where education wasn’t freely accepted for girls, she taught them that they did, in fact, deserve to rise!

This book is beautiful in all ways – the message, the character development, the story. I am so glad I stumbled upon this one!

What’s the last book that pleasantly surprised you?

Daisy Jones & The Six

{#partner #freebook @randomhouse}

I’m gonna have to agree with the hype on this one and praise it from the highest mountain tops with everyone else.

“I’d chase this life with all of my heart. I wanted so badly to express myself and be heard and bring solace to other people with my own words. But it because a hell I’d created myself, a cage I’d built and locked myself in. I came to hate that I’d put my heart and my pain into my music because it meant that I couldn’t ever leave it behind. And I had to keep singing it to him, night after night after night, and I could no longer hide how I felt or what being next to him was doing to me. It made for a great show. But it was my life.”

Sure, I was a little leery of the format in the beginning (it’s in interview format – exactly like a script would be), but as soon as I got a feel for the characters, the story took off and I could not put this one down.

TJR proves herself once again as a master at storytelling and the format of this book proves that point even more. To be able to craft a story with snippets of various people’s points of view truly demonstrates her giftedness as a writer.

The last 50 pages were so brilliant and beautiful to me; I didn’t see the twist coming. I felt all the feels and I took a long sigh when I finished. It’s just one of those books.

No doubt about it: this will be one of my favorite books of the year!